five simple ways to support host families

Many of my friends and family know someone hosting an “orphan” or two or six the next few weeks. Most of them are so supportive and excited, but they may not know exactly what to say or do to show that support. Others are curious and unsure of this strange thing their church friend or family member has decided to do. It is easy to put a foot in a mouth or suffer from “paralysis by analysis” in new and different situations such as this. You know you want to do something, say something, act somehow on their behalf, but you are not sure what they need, what the right thing to say is. Or even what the heck these families are doing. Am I right?

All of the children arriving to the States today are hoping to be adopted. Many of the host families are also hoping to adopt their matches. Others are here to advocate for their host child in hopes of finding them an adoptive home. No matter the exact circumstance, successful mechanisms of support are the same.

Here are a few simple pointers to help you spread the love and show support:

–DO NOT SAY STUPID STUFF. “The child will ruin your life and your children’s lives.” True story. Do not say stuff like that. If you are vehemently opposed and are not open to changing your mind, you should actually not say anything. However, if you are just unsure or a little reserved, say stuff like “I am intrigued by this experience, tell me a little about how you decided to do this.” Instead of saying, “I could never do that, you are crazy!” say, “I am not sure I could open my home, but I want to know more, tell me what drew you to this program or this child.”

You could even be super direct. Just say “I have no idea how to support you, but I really want to. Tell me one thing I can do.” I love direct. Do not tell the parent they are a savior, a hero, or amazing. Tell them they can do this, that they are stronger than they think they are, that they have you as a wing man, and that your faithfulness is theirs.

–RESERVE JUDGMENT. Stay Open. Maybe you know a family member who’s adoption didn’t work out like they thought it would. Maybe you have your own bias against different races or ethnicities mixing in a family. Maybe you saw a 60-minute interview a decade ago where some random child from a random place destroyed a random family’s home after they opened their hearts to said child. If these are your only experiences with adoption, Get Another One. Yes, bad things happen to good people. But the last time I checked most murderers, rapists, and drug dealers came from biological families. Mental health issues are universal. Instead of worrying about the what if’s, use this as a time to get to know the child of your friend. Those without family are people too. They think, feel, have hopes and dreams just like you and me and the children we are raising. Imagine if you didn’t have a family…no one in the world. Yeah, that would really suck. We have the ability to change that.

–SOCIAL SHARE. Tell others like crazy. For a million and one reasons the match may not be successful. Most of these children age out of care and/or are not available for adoption once they hit the ages of 15-16. You could be the difference. Tell people about these kids. Share their story. Add friends and friends of friends to the private advocacy pages that each family has set up. As these children become real to others, their chances for a forever home skyrocket. God or the universe or whatever you want to call it could be working on someone else’s heart….if you open your mouth or click “share” you may just connect that anonymous heart with a beautiful child who needs a home.

–DO SOMETHING. In moments like this talk really is cheap. Do something visible. Anonymous is so awesome. But in times like this, your friends and family need to See people in their corner. They need to Feel the love and know who they can trust, who they can text, who they can rely on. Most of the host families are new to adoption–especially that of older kids. They may not know what they exactly need. But they will need something. And reaching out can be scary if they are unsure of your support level.

I literally had no idea what I would need when I came home from Bogota with four little kids. When we finally arrived home at midnight though, we were greeted by friends and family. They had signs and pictures and smiles aplenty. They had stocked our fridge and pantry and sorted bags of donated clothes. They framed pictures we had previously posted from our weeks in Bogota so the kids could see a piece of themselves in their new home. One dear friend who lived in California made travel blankets and care packages for our kids’ ride from LAX to Las Vegas. She made the drive to meet us and hug us before we left for Nevada. Practical. Thoughtful. Kind. It helped the kids on the drive and showed me the bursting love and support she wanted me to feel. I knew she would do anything for me. Exactly what I needed in that moment.

The options are truly endless. Heart attack a door. Organize a clothing swap. Invite the entire family over for dinner and swimming. Learn a few words in the child’s language and practice with them. Send a note of encouragement to the parents. Mow their yard. Text your bestie and ask if she needs to escape for ice cream after bedtime. And just let your buddy talk, no judgments on the table, just unconditional love.

Meals are an excellent way to show support. I received no meals when we came home from Colombia or when we received our three siblings from foster care, and I needed them way more at that time than when I had a bio baby. People do not naturally see the two experiences as equal because the children are older or maybe not permanent. That’s okay, but now you know. Parents are just as tired–maybe more so, just as focused on the new children in the house, trying to navigate relationships, keeping everyone safe, creating routines, bonding, etc. If a family says no to a meal, just show up with muffins and juice, frozen breakfast burritos, or snack bags for the kids. Something easy they can use in a pinch. Food is Love!

–SPEAK. Silence is truly Deafening. Whether spoken or not,  adoptive parents of older children carry the bag of “What If’s” over their shoulders. What if this child is not accepted? What if this child is not loved by those that love me? What if the negative comments are actually true? What if I made a mistake? What if I am not strong enough to do this? I could write a hundred more What Ifs, but you get my point. Above all, if you make eye contact or see one of your friends at church or at an event, Do Not Dart Away. Smile. Say hi. Be polite. You don’t even need to speak. Just give a long hug of encouragement.

The families who are hosting are just awesome. They are so excited, nervous, faith-filled, and a little apprehensive. They have spent dozens of hours applying, taking classes, completing homestudies, preparing for their children’s arrivals…and some sleepless nights wondering what the heck they have gotten themselves into. It’s kind of a big deal. Love on them, if you know them. And social share if you do not. All kids need homes. A world where every child has a home would be an awesome place to live. We can make that happen one child at a time, whether here or abroad.

All my love,

Rachel

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movement

You know how God moves through your life imperceptibly most days? I mean, you know he’s there, but don’t give much thought to his soft, graceful movements as they gently course correct you along your daily path. Yeah, me too! Even though I am deeply rooted in faith, I often forget that my life is being daily directed by something bigger than myself.

But sometimes we get pushed, hard! Forget the gentle nudging…

God gave me a push two months ago. It was actually more like a fist right to the middle of the back, thrusting me wildly forward. There was no mistaking the push and from whence it came. Kind of like, “Rachel, I NEED you to hear me. Stop getting in your own way. Focus on Me and I will show you EXACTLY what I need you to do.” So I shut up. And He did tell me.

The end result: I wrote my first book!

I have actually wanted to write it for a long time and life (that whole eight children thing) just seemed to always get in my way. Soft whispers and gentle jabs weren’t cutting it! So God pushed, and I responded. Life isn’t going to ever slow down and I have really important things He needs me to do.

This first book details my story from infertily and loss to family and beyond. Subsequent books will focus on helping those who want to foster or adopt, and perhaps even more importantly, will also focus on post-adoption and foster help. Resources, stories, curriculums, my ear. You name it, I’m here!

We are revamping this blog to accommodate the changes. Hoping to help many who seem hesitant to make the leap, lost in the process, and struggling in the aftermath of Adoption and Foster Care.

How is God moving through your life right now? Is he softly blowing whispers your way hoping you’ll swiftly correct your course? Or is he rushing through your window like a strong spring windstorm trying desperately to get your attention? What does He have for you to do? I guarantee there is something.

All I can say is continue to Look Up. Expect Miracles. Cause miracles will and do happen!

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5 reasons your teen isn’t like other teens…

For family and friends of kids with attachment issues. We know you want to understand. We know you want to be supportive. You want to get it! Articles like this help with the how, not just with the why.

5 reasons your teen with reactive attachment disorder isnt like all other teenagers

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to past memories and new adventures

(posted by rachel)
It is hard to believe that the start of our crazy adoption adventures beginning in Bogota, Colombia almost a decade ago has landed us here. I have two children preparing to drive. Four awkward middle-schoolers. A pretty little fourth grader. And a three year old who started as a frozen emby and currently runs the house. And all of this was accomplished in eight short years. Crazy. Exhausting. Frustrating at times. And I wouldn’t change a single moment. A single decision. A single opportunity.

In searching my blog archives today for an upcoming adoption book series, I was overcome with emotion. Honestly, I had forgotten half of what was written and I was so grateful for the efforts put into this project from the beginning. It has preserved memories and fostered relationships that will last past a lifetime. A part of those efforts are not mine alone, but yours…comments and support from readers, fellow adoptive parents, amazing family, and awesome friends. The interactions from the blog have brought me lasting friendships with others who have walked this path. I value their thoughts and opinions. They have helped shape my adoption and parenting experience over the years. I just love them all!

The blog comments stand collectively as a preservation of my circle of influence from that time period. I love this so much! It’s a history of the people who supported us, loved us, and were present in our lives during a most significant moment in time.

It is just so cool. And my children will always have that as a historical witness to how much they were loved…even before they came here. I was in tears on the phone tonight with Adam. Waxing nostalgic, as usual. We are entering a new chapter in our lives. A new decade. A new house. A new way to help others who have adopted, want to adopt, and those that love them. It’s kind of surreal to think of where we started and where we are now. It’s gone so fast. A blink, really. And yet, that day in Colombia when four little strangers became ours seems like a lifetime ago. Sometimes I even forget that it happened ’cause they are just ours. And I wouldn’t change it, ever.

Here is to new adventures. New ways of reaching out. New ways of loving and connecting. And perhaps a new adoption still. :)

It is not the years in your life, but the life in your years!

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and so it begins

We’re doing it again. Adoption that is. Yay! China. Two kiddos. So excited. More info to come. Official Application Date was April 22, 2016.

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what if

I wanted to try and have another baby. I mean, is that really so bad? Shutting the door makes so much sense. For so many reasons. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about it.

All. The. Time.

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the weight of the wait

I am currently waiting. Waiting to miscarry our last hope for another baby. These are the worst kinds of wait. I have experienced them before. The wait for something horrible to happen that one knows is coming, over which you have absolutely no control. But this time, with this wait, there is an extra heaving brick upon my chest. It is heavy. Crushing, really. A sense of finality looms thickly over me. I am not ready to close this chapter. I thought I was. But I am not. And yet, despite my best efforts at wanting to try again, I cannot make it sit right inside of my sad heart. In the seat of my soul is the knowledge that I need to be done. The further we get into this embryo transfer the more this truth resonates with me. For the sake of my health and for the temporal and spiritual welfare of my kiddos, I must be done!

Infertility, like most things under the umbrella of loss, sucks all emotional energy and physical strength from your heart and soul, if you let it. When a transfer fails or a blood draw yields a negative number, when an embryo doesn’t survive a thaw or harmless spotting begins, we Infertiles find ourselves quickly cycling in a cyclone of sadness. The most sane and rational of us find ourselves bouncing from hopeful to hopeless several times a day. Our mental withitness is dulled by inordinate amounts of hormones. Butt shots, stomach shots, blood thinners, infusions, suppositories, catheters, blood draws, ultrasounds, egg retrievals, embryo storage, acupunture. You name it, we’ve done it. And tens of thousands of dollars later (sometimes hundreds) some of us end up with a baby. Some of us don’t. Some of us want to keep going, but simply can’t afford it. Some of us end up with several frozen embryos in cryo-freeze and some of us end up with no viable embryo to transfer…Ever! Some of us decide to adopt, some try a surrogate, and some stay childless. The possible outcomes are never certain and always changing when you’re in the middle of the storm.

I am one of the lucky ones. I realize this. Hannah was a gift to our family. Not because we had more faith than someone else or because we were more worthy. Not because we had a better doctor or paid more money. We just simply had her. At the right time, in the right place. The right amount of magic. A miracle. Because it just was. And if I believe that she is with us because God sent her to us then I have to believe that the rest of the pregnancies failed because of that same will. That same God.

With this final IVF try my body was prepped and ready. Implantation went perfectly. My lining and all hormone levels were great. The fact of the matter is that after 10 years of trying, countless miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, lame Clomid cycles, and then two serious years of IVF treatments, which yielded 20 retrieved eggs, six growing embryos, and lots of drugs, ultrasounds, consults, and more drugs, this last pregnancy was not meant to be, just like all the others. Besides Hannah!

Adam and I KNOW that Hannah is more than a lot of couples who struggle for a bio baby are ever blessed with. So I choose to be grateful. I choose to be graceful. And for a little while I choose to be heart-broken. If there is one thing infertility has taught me, it is how to feel pain and grief with copious amounts of grace and gratitude. I wouldn’t want to bear sadness any other way. And as I adjust to this new idea of never ever trying to have another baby, I give myself permission to be sad sometimes. To second guess my resolve. To cry. And then, as always, to give thanks to above for the abundance of life that is found within the walls of my home.

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another turn on the merry-go-round

December 15th, 2014. Yep, that’s the day. The day we are going to try for another baby!

We have two frozen embryos left and we have no idea if there are any genetic issues with either. Out of the last four implanted embryos, one has been viable–sweet Baby Hannah. Put into a percentage, my chance of a positive pregnancy is around 20%. To top those stellar odds off, I have been diagnosed with Antiphospholipid syndrome, more specifically, the Anticardiolipin Antibody.

And yes, I was tested for this previously, but you can acquire it at anytime. The Preeclampsia and small baby from frozen embryo coupled with unexplained miscarriages is what tipped my Perinatologist off to test again. (UW’s high risk clinic has the best specialists…they are as amazing as my OB and Endocrinologist. I am so blessed with incredible doctors)

Wish us luck!

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where did the year go?

I just looked up today and Hannah is nine months old. What?!? My oldest Colombian is turning fourteen this summer. Seriously??? I just became a mom six years ago. How is this all possible? I have cataloged so many posts in my mind since Hannah came home from the NICU in October. They are stored in my memory castle waiting for a few spare moments to be penned.

But for now…

Hannah is rockstar amazing. Growing, developing, thriving. She is a little miracle that has bound our family a little bit tighter.

Annie is still our Sunshine. She brought light into our family when she was three and shines brighter with every passing year. She gracefully allows Hannah to take the baby spot in the family.

Brian is the coolest kid I know. He is liked by everyone and has an innate comedic timing that endears him to everyone. He is gentle and kind and I adore him.

Joseph is thriving through homeschooling. Best decision I’ve made all year. He’s been home for just a month and I already see him flourishing in awareness and kindness. Jo Jo anxiously waits for Monday because he gets Hannah all to himself. He has become quite adept at feeding her. He’s the least messy of all the kids at it.

Juan is so stinkin’ smart. His academic potential has skyrocketed this year. He has grown so much since moving here. He is less volatile. He is more in control. And he is totally rocking school. Highest reader in his grade and tested out at seventh grade math. What?!? Knowing where he came from and the struggles he has had….my closest circle knows how much this means to me.

Nikki is trying hard to reconcile tween status. She is blessed with a teacher this year that has worked with her at her math level….yet pushes her in her writing and other things to do better. Nikki will always significantly struggle with learning and school and we are resolved to do whatever it takes to get her through. She will be homeschooled through middle school so that we have more control over what level of work she is doing.

Ezzy is Amazing…as usual. I intentionally let her go this year…making her do a year of public school. She needed a chance to fly without me. Ez was awarded student of the month for the whole school…and not because of her academics, which are still so low, but because she is the hardest worker her teachers have ever seen. We all know that is true about her, but it is really awesome to see that reinforced by others, as well.

Danny is sooo a teenager. He is so handsome and muscular and athletic. He has a smile that goes on for miles. He has tried really hard this year to take responsibility for his actions and to make good choices. I am so proud of him. It is so difficult to be a teenage boy with different standards than most of the teenagers he is surrounded by.

Phew…I think I’m done. I hope to have a bloggin’ summer. Much to say and discuss and think about. :)

Posted in adjusting, adoption, Annie, Brian, daniel, esmeralda, Hannah, Joseph, juan pablo, maria daniela | Tagged , | Leave a comment

so close

Hannah is super close to coming home. She passed her car seat challenge, feeding tube test, hearing test, and she’s had no apnea while resting for over a week. We have her one week doctor check scheduled, her next ROP exam at her eye doctor scheduled, and she’s had her first vaccination. We WERE tentatively scheduled for release today (Sunday).

So what are we waiting for???Little Miss Thing decided she does not want to come home just yet, apparently. I think she doesn’t want to leave her nurses or her baby buddies.

Hannah is eating great from the breast and the bottle. Once her feeding tube came out, however, she started to get overwhelmed while eating…Meaning she stops breathing and cannot recover without assistance. Yes, Scary!! She has had at least one spell a day for the last three days. So I put her back on the monitors while I feed her to help track what she isdoing. She just needs a little time to master pacing while she is eating.

We are monitoring her today. If she does well, we may go home tomorrow. If she keeps being a preemie stinker than we’ll keep hanging loose here. Breathing while eating is a super difficult task for preemies to master. They still aren’t even supposed to be eating yet…so sometimes it takes awhile to outgrow.

Hannah is SEVEN weeks old tomorrow (37 weeks gestation). She is 5lbs 3oz. And 17.5 inches long. Because Hannah was born so early she is in the super grower category, which means she gets fortifier in her milk and protein to help her grow faster. That is how she was able to pack on weight quickly. Even still, Hannah is “petite” ranging in the 25th percentile for growth…against other babies born the same time as her. She has a NICU buddy that is the same gestational age. They’ve gone through everything here together. They used to weigh the same, gaining about the same amount every night. And then…he just took off. He is about 10 oz bigger at this point. Hannah tried to keep up, but she pooped out on the race a couple of weeks ago. She has dipped down a couple of times to the 10th percentile, but is currently doing better. She’s pretty much awesome! Fighting all the way.

Hannah has been very fortunate. She is not plagued with many issues NICU babies sometimes deal with…a testament to the prayers of her family and friends, no doubt. She is Lactation’s rockstar and the current princess of the palace. (She has had only boy roomies for practically the whole time). She is, however, still very much a preemie in terms of growth and development. We’re okay with that. It means we get to snuggle her tiny little body for longer. It may be our only chance!

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